Friends and Family
Illustration by Mark Hansen
Thissraelle held onto Eddiwarth tightly, her face nestled between his shoulder and ear. His arms surrounded her in his own circle of love, protection, and promise. They stood before the closed double doors of the porch of the Abby’s chapel absorbing their embrace. A shivering draft wafted through the tiny gap at the bottom and across her dress, chilling her legs a little. Her heart, however, burned with his, filling them both with warmth.
From beyond the doors music and shouting drifted in with the whistling winter wind. Their friends and loved ones all waited outside for the evening’s celebrations to begin.
For the moment, Thissraelle didn’t care.
I am yours, now. She felt him breathe deeply as her words drifted into his mind. He held her just a little tighter. In his mind she saw him smiling. Or maybe she felt him smiling. It didn’t matter either way. After all that they had been through, together, and individually, nothing else mattered now.
His words came back to her. I am yours. I have always been, and I always will be.
Her father cleared his throat behind her. That was his way of trying to get her moving ahead again. She ignored it.
Her mother joined the effort, saying to the Father Abbott, “Thank you so much for such a beautiful ceremony. It really was heavenly.” The father mumbled a response that was certainly cordial, but unintelligible to Thissraelle.
Thissraelle drew back and looked up into Eddiwarth’s sparkling eyes. They both shared an understanding laugh for a moment, then kissed. Eddiwarth nodded. Yeah, let’s go.
They pulled apart for a moment, still holding hands, while a couple of the brothers helped them into bright decorative cloaks. Gleaming white, decorated with sparkling trim and fur, they were by far the most impressive thing that Eddiwarth had ever worn. She spun in her long white dress and Eddiwarth stood by in a fine linen shirt and tightly creased pants.
“Oh, Eddi!” Lylee, Eddiwarth’s mother, shrieked, “You look…” Words failed her. She rushed forward to hug them both.
“Yeah, OK, mom. That’s great,” he said, “It’s time to go out.”
She pulled back from him with a motherly look, “Oh, now you want to go?”
Thissraelle gestured to the friars near the door, and they leaned in, swinging the great oaken doors open.
Thissraelle sucked in a breath. Along with the deep cold breeze, she took in the courtyard alight with colors, streamers, music and dancers. Tables of roast pheasant and venison also stacked high with breads and cakes rimmed the courtyard. A crowd of people jumped and cheered for them, tossing barley and oats onto their heads as they stepped off the porch onto the stairs. Rushes of magical light and fire flew up over them in spirals showering glimmers down onto the celebrants and the happy couple.
“I haven’t seen Winterfest this full in years!” she smiled to her mother.
Thissraelle grabbed Eddiwarth’s arm and followed him, her head ducked just a bit to pretend to avoid the flying grains.
“Wow.” Eddiwarth whispered to a friar as they passed, “You brothers do know how to party!” Thissraelle smirked and elbowed him.
“Aye, that we do!” The beaming friar nodded. “We also had a lot of help.” He gestured to Jaxil and his wife, waving as they followed Thissraelle and Eddiwarth into the throng.
Well-wishers pulled Thissraelle and Eddiwarth into the courtyard center where the snow had all been swept and shoveled away. The cold forgotten, everyone danced circles, twirls, and reels, the activity keeping everyone warm. Mellar and Lylee jumped in, as well as Antonerri and DeFrantis.
As Thissraelle reeled, she gasped to see Karendle beside the dance floor. Thissraelle immediately broke away from the dance to embrace her friend.
“Karendle! I’m so glad to see you!” They spun in place, hugging tightly and squealing with joy. Finally, they parted, “How are you?”
“I’m good! I’m good,” Karendle nodded, smiling.
Thissraelle reached up and held the long auburn braid draped over Karendle’s right shoulder. “Oh, I haven’t seen this in forever. It’s so much longer now! Still working with your father?”
“Yeah. It’s really good. I’ve been back to the home in the mountains several times. What about you?”
Thissraelle just shrugged and smiled. “I’ve been getting married!”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed!” Karendle rolled her eyes.
“Have you seen Antonerri and DeFrantis?”
“Yeah. I caught up with them earlier. Parith is here, too.” She called over Thissraelle’s shoulder, “Hey! Parith! Over here! Looks like he’s talking to Eddiwarth.”
Another tune started up, so they stepped away from the dancing and sat at one of the tables. Thissraelle’s mind bounced through myriad memories and experiences, her feelings sweeping around her like the sparkling lights hung in the trees.
Karendle hesitated, “I wish Granthurg could have seen this.”
Thissraelle blinked several times and nodded. She dropped her gaze to the table. Her heart felt split between the ache of her old friend’s absence and the joy of the moment. Karendle put her hands on Thissraelle’s and squeezed. Thissraelle smiled through the hurt. She wouldn’t have ever done that when we lived here before!
“You, ah…” Karendle said, awkwardly pulling away, “You’re probably hungry. Let me go get you a plate. And an ale.”
Thissraelle raised her eyes and winked. That’s the Karendle I know and love. As she watched her friend walk away, her eye caught Parith coming toward the table. She eagerly waved.
Wait, who’s that with him? Is that…? It was a young girl, another wood elf, like Parith, standing next to him in a short green cloak. It IS! “Illariel!” Thissraelle shrieked, opening her arms up. The girl’s face broke into a smile and she ran to Thissraelle’s embrace, flinging her arms around her neck in a rope-tight grip. “Oh, Illariel, girl, it’s soo-o good to see you! How are you? Is your spider friend here with you?”
Illariel didn’t answer and didn’t ease on her grip, either. In a moment, Thissraelle realized that her friend was shaking and crying.
“Oh, Illariel! What’s wrong?” Thissraelle tried to look into the younger elf’s face, but Illariel just clung to her neck, sobbing. Thissraelle stroked her hair, rocking her back and forth. “It’s OK. Just let it out. I’m here, and it’s all fine, it’s all fine.”
Parith stepped up and put his hand on Thissraelle’s shoulder. Their eyes met and Parith gave her a sad sort of smile and a nod.
After a moment, Illariel’s grip eased, but she still didn’t let go. She slid onto the bench next to Thissraelle. Thissraelle continued to stroke her hair and shoulders, trying to comfort her. “I’ve missed you, too. I’m very glad to see you. This has been hard on us all, hasn’t it?”
Illariel snuffed, “The dra-hagons killed everyone, and people killed each other, and Korr is dead and Shylai’a’s gone, and I watched Eddiwarth get– I can’t– can’t sleep at night be-hecause of the nightmares, and Ari went to the wo-hoods to sleep, and I have no friends, and I’m sor-horry I’m ruining your wedding, and…”
Thissraelle pulled the elf girl close again. “Shhh. It’s fine. I’m glad you’re safe, and I’m here for you now. We’ll have lots of time to talk, won’t we? Just relax. Let it all out.”
Parith nodded and squeezed Thissraelle’s shoulder. Eddiwarth sat down next to them and slid his arm around his wife and the crying girl. He leaned over and kissed Thissraelle’s forehead.
I love you.
She looked up at him with a sad sort of smile, then rested on his shoulder and Illariel’s quivering head.
Author’s Note: Family and Friends
By this time, I’ve introduced a lot of characters into A Tale of Heroes. They all came from different backgrounds, but they all bonded in ways that made them almost like family. Four of them, now, have turned that bond into family connections, by getting married. The first was DeFrantis and Antonerri in and interlude in Book 2. Finally, now in book 4, Eddiwarth and Thissraelle do the same.
Antonerri and DeFrantis, of course, have the children of the orphanage, but now their family includes Tari, their own daughter. Neither of them had any family behind them at their wedding.
Thissraelle and Eddiwarth, however, have their full family, both sets of parents at their service.
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